ESG Work Takes off at Big Law Firms, as Clients Navigate Disclosure Requirements
The first quarter of 2021 has inundated full-service law firms with demand from corporate clients for legal counsel on how to navigate the uncertain disclosure process and reputational management of their business’ environmental, social and governance (ESG) activity.
ESG practitioners at Blank Rome, Ballard Spahr and Armstrong Teasdale say the influx of ESG-related matters has been driven by the Biden administration’s stated efforts to broaden the disclosure requirements for companies.
“ESG is starting to be considered part of a risk management program, that you need to consider these factors and how they impact your business,” said Stacy Louizos, co-lead of Blank Rome’s more than 25-lawyer ESG team and co-chair of the firm’s investment management group.
Team leaders at Blank Rome said the firm’s ESG team launched in early 2020 with five or six members, before the COVID-19 pandemic derailed efforts—attention turned toward advising clients on navigating the pandemic’s uncertain economic landscape. But the protests surrounding racial injustice that followed the death of George Floyd and others by police have kept shareholder activism alive. And environmental health continues to get attention.
ESG “has been driven into the mainstream both by the regulatory and government side, but also the pandemic accelerated interest in this,” Louizos said. “You need a multidisciplinary approach because it’s hitting in different ways in terms of the company, depending on where they are in the supply chain and what kind of work they do.”
Yelena Barychev, who co-leads Blank Rome’s ESG team with Louizos, said the group has recruited attorneys from securities and corporate law, investment management, labor and employment, and energy and environmental industry groups. Team leaders said the firm’s midmarket clients with sustainable lending funds or SPACs with ESG-driven strategies are retaining them for best practices advisory work.
“We’ve got people joining every day because it’s hitting so many areas of business that we’re finding there’s various areas of impact,” Louizos said.
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“ESG Work Takes off at Big Law Firms, as Clients Navigate Disclosure Requirements,” by Justin Henry was published in The Legal Intelligencer on April 5, 2021.